The First Half Hour Of Cancer


On his blog The Letting Go, Michael Popp recounts the initial moments in which he was curtly informed of his leukemia, “as if [I] was being asked if [I] wanted a receipt.”

The doctor scribbles down two numbers. Its 4:30 they tell me. You need to get to a sperm bank immediately. The chemotherapy will make you infertile and if you have any desire to have children, you need to call these numbers and bank. I had known, for nearly 4 minutes that I had cancer. It hadn’t even begin to phase me and now I would be infertile. I picked up the paper, still unsure of everything that was going on and began to beg a woman with a thick accent on the other line for an immediate appointment.

On his way to deposit the sperm, he called his girlfriend:

The phone rang and she answered. I explained, rather plainly, I had cancer.

My chances of survival were good and that everything would be okay. As I told her, it became real. My voice began to break up as I made it block by block towards the bank. I was having trouble holding it together as I said the words to her, trying to reassure her there wasn’t anything to worry about. I was losing it, I told her I’d call her back, I couldn’t bear showing her how upset I was, I needed her to believe what I had said, knowing that I myself was completely unsure of what to expect. I had only known I had cancer for 15 minutes. I knew nothing.

(Photo by Tom Hart)